The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, says he has lost count of the records of charges of false asset declaration instituted against him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
He also said facts about the charges were no longer fresh in his memory because they bordered on offences which he was accused of committing between five to 14 years ago. More after the cut…
Saraki stated this in an affidavit, which he personally deposed to in support of his fresh application seeking the quashing of the charges against him at the CCT and discharging him of the alleged offences.
“The facts relating to these matters are no longer fresh in my memory quite apart from the fact that I have lost many of my records pertaining to them,” he stated in the affidavit.
Saraki’s fresh application, which was dated and filed on March 4, 2016, seeks to halt his trial that had been validated by the Supreme Court through its judgement delivered on February 5, 2016. He was arraigned on 13 counts of false asset declaration before the CCT on September 22, 2015.
A seven-man panel of the Supreme Court, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, had in its judgement, dismissed Saraki’s objection to his trial. The apex court, in the said judgement, affirmed the competence of the 13 counts filed against him and the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the case.
In the charges instituted by the Federal Government, Saraki was accused of making false asset declaration in his forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau on assuming office and leaving during his two terms as Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011. The Senate President, who was said to have submitted four asset declaration forms, allegedly “corruptly acquired many properties while in office as Governor of Kwara State, but failed to declare some of them in the said forms earlier filled and submitted.”
He also allegedly made an anticipatory declaration of assets upon his assumption of office as governor, which he later acquired. Saraki was also accused of sending money abroad for the purchase of property in London and maintaining an account outside Nigeria while serving as governor. But in his fresh application, Saraki said the charges were not in the interest of justice, but politically motivated and filed in violation of due process as well as his right to fair hearing.
He also stated that the charges could not be valid since they were filed in the name of the Attorney-General of the Federation. He said he was denied fair hearing as neither the CCB nor the Attorney-General of the Federation confronted him with any infraction in the four assets declaration forms. He said he declared his assets first on assuming office as Governor of Kwara State in 2003 and on completing his term in 2011.
He said he subsequently made another asset declaration and submitted the form to the CCB upon his reelection in 2007 and on ending his second term in 2011. He said had he been informed of any inconsistencies in his asset declaration forms, he would have corrected them.
He said, “I am not aware of any petitions challenging my declarations, and the bureau (CCB) has never drawn my attention to any. I would promptly have corrected or explained (the reason for) any alleged discrepancies or inconsistencies in my asset declaration had my attention been drawn to them.”
His prayers in the application include, “An order quashing and/or striking out the charges contained in Charge No: CCT/ABJ/01/2015 by the complainant/respondent against the applicant. “An order pursuant to Paragraph 1 above, discharging the defendant/applicant herein.”
Saraki’s new lead counsel, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), who led five other Senior Advocates of Nigeria and about 60 other lawyers in the Senate President’s legal team on Friday, is also challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain the case against his client. Saraki’s trial, scheduled to commence on Thursday, following the judgement of the Supreme Court validating it, was stalled on Friday.
The trial was stalled after Agabi introduced his client’s fresh application and insisted that it must be heard before the matter could continue.
But the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), described the motion as “a deliberate attempt to stop the trial from going on.” “The defendant keeps saying that there is no case against him and that he is being persecuted; why doesn’t he let the trial start so that the whole world can see the persecution?” Jacobs asked.
The prosecutor, who said he had not been served with the motion, insisted that by virtue of the judgement of the Supreme Court delivered on February 5, which validated the trial, the day’s business was for the prosecution to open its case.